One of the themes that developed on Day 1 of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's hearings is that Democrats plan to make an issue of what they say is the Supreme Court's pro-business leanings. In their opening statements on Monday, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee argued that Gorsuch is likely to continue the trend.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island alleged that when the court's majority is made of Republican appointees, the narrow 5-4 decisions "line up to help corporations against humans."
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said that the court under Chief Justice John Roberts is often called "a corporate court" and said a study by the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center found that it ruled for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 69 percent of the time.
Durbin also cited Gorsuch's dissent in a case in which a truck driver lost his job after his rig broke down one bitterly cold night. (NPR's Nina Totenberg reported on the case here.) The driver was instructed to stay with the truck, but he found himself growing numb in the unheated cab and so drove away to find warmth, leaving the trailer behind, and was fired for disobeying orders.
Durbin said it was 14 below that night, adding, "but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch." He added, "Thank goodness that the majority in this case pointed out that common sense and the Oxford dictionary" supported their view that the firing was without merit.
In his own opening statement, Gorsuch spoke of striving for impartiality and the support he has received across the political spectrum.
"In my decade on the bench, I have tried to treat all who come to court fairly and with respect. ... My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me — only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case," the nominee said. "For the truth is, a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for the policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels."
Gorsuch will begin taking questions from the senators on Tuesday morning.